Friday night lights. A little cliche now with the movie, the series, website...but there's so much meaning behind it. Just the thought of seeing the blaringly bright lights shining from high up above a high school football stadium on a Friday night in Texas is enough to make me shutter with excitement. Seeing them from a distance makes me feel like I'm missing out on something. Seeing them from within the stands is just a part of the atmosphere, along with the smell of popcorn, kids running around thinking their parents can't see them, the sounds from the band, the cheesy horn from the scoreboard, the cheering, the heart and emotion of the players giving everything they have, along with the constant stream of memories from the past. Memories from when you were in high school going to all of the games. If you're like me, memories all the way back to your first game at 6 years of age that was the beginning of football being a part of your life. And now, seeing the Friday night lights from within the press box. With coaches/coordinators shouting plays and coverages into the headsets, scouts from other schools charting every play, reporters from local newspapers, announcers, camera crews, free food & drinks...and me and another guy tracking the statistics of every single play. A new perspective for me that I can really get used to!
Overall, my first game was a really cool experience. We played LD Bell, which is a team that goes way back to the beginning of my football life, but I'll get in to that in the next paragraph. It was a lot of fun being around all of the scouts and reporters, but more than that, it was fun scrutinizing every single play. It was difficult at times when they went to a no-huddle, but I had a blast doing it! Even better, I calculated the quarterback rating and gave it to the coach along with a few other ideas, and he loved the rating and was very big on having us track things like yards after catch, yards after 1st hit, mistackles, etc. Those things haven't been tracked before, but the coach would love to see them, so we'll do our best to make it happen!
To better appreciate another amazing experience from Friday night, I'll rewind 25 years back to when the Wichita Falls Coyotes played LD Bell in the quarterfinals in 1982. I was 7 years old and REALLY wanted to be at the game, but it was an away game. So, I found the game on AM radio, and listened to a GREAT football game. What made this game so memorable was that with a minute and a half remaining in the game, LD Bell was winning 21-20 when so many fights broke out that the refs called the game off!! LD Bell advanced and my beloved Coyotes were sent home. So...having set the stage with that story, I'll tell you about the guy I sat next to in the press box. Along with scouts, reporters, coaches, etc, there were also some honorary guests, but I didn't have a clue who. Could have been the mayor, council members, or the owner of the local Dairy Queen for all I knew. Anyway, every once in a while I would talk to this old man who was sitting next to me. He had a special game bracelet on, so I knew he was an honorary guest, but he could have just been a player's grandpa - who knows? The more I talked to this guy, the more he talked. He tells me about how in the late 1950's, he was the football coach at Wayside, a middle school in Saginaw. Kinda cool, but no big deal, right? He says a few more things and then mentions that he had several of his players from LD Bell go on to play at big schools and a few in the NFL (one of which is Tommy Maddux). That perks my head a little and I ask how long he coached there. "25 years." WOW! So then I realize I'm sitting next to a local celebrity. I do the math and guesstimate that he was the coach of LD Bell in the early 80's. So I tell him that I remember in the early 80's when LD Bell beat WFHS in the quarterfinals after the refs called the game off. He finished my sentence before I could even get it out!! It was unbelievable!!! Luckily the other statistician was paying attention, because I missed several plays right then! I couldn't believe I was sitting next to and talking to the head coach of the team whom I listened to on the radio 25 years ago that beat the Coyotes! WOW!!! That was really cool! Needless to say, I was a little starstruck the rest of the game.
Who will I meet at this week's game??? I can hardly wait...